Tag Archives: Leona Anderson

Olde Towne Elkhorn

December 4, 2014 by and
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

As with any small town in America, seasons change and visitors come and go. But one thing that remains the same is the locomotive’s plaintive whistle heard all up and down Main Street in Elkhorn. Just a stone’s throw from the tracks, Olde Towne, as some locals refer to it, has experienced a renewed vitality in the past eight years after a number of new businesses opened.

The town was just recovering from a 2005 annexation by the city of Omaha. The locals fought hard to remain independent but Omaha won out.

“The only thing they did was change the numbers on our street and changed the names of some of the streets,” says Leona Anderson, owner of Little Scandinavia specialty shop.

Across the tracks is a tidy, 3.6-mile stretch of bricks laid in 1920 as part of the Lincoln Highway connecting New York to San Francisco. The secluded and serene stretch was recognized as part of the National Register of Historic places in 2003. “You’ll see the markings on the poles. A lot of bike riders like to take that route,” Anderson says.

A regular at monthly merchant meetings, Anderson has played a revitalizing role in Olde Towne by writing TIF (Tax Increment Financing) grants for Mayor Jean Stothert’s Neighborhood Grants.

“We are the ones carrying the ball,” she says. Soon, they will be receiving more TIF money for streetscaping, planting, and parking. “We’re up for big changes here. It will be fun,” Anderson says. Other projects include funding for such public amenities as trash receptacles and park benches. The benches are certainly comfy, but some of the most prized perches are the bar stools at Boyd & Charlies BBQ, where locals flock for ribs and ribbing. At least a few of the tales told among the slabs and slaw are rumored to have at least an element of the truth to them.

Although much is changing, it’s clear the long-time residents prefer the quaintness of yesteryear. “People in Elkhorn don’t like to be considered part of Omaha, so we respect that. You learn that very early, especially with the oldtimers, ” says Andrea Ramsey, owner of Andrea’s Designs.

There is no shortage of special events to attend in Elkhorn. The Christmas Tree Lighting is a popular event, as well as the crowd-pleasing Elkhorn Days Parade held in June. The area merchants also hold a Ladies’ Day event every month to showcase various seasonal specials. There’s also a Farmer’s Market on Thursday nights throughout the summer.

Ramsey is a merchant who takes part in the ladies’ events and has also had a hand in grant-writing. The opening of her store happened rather organically about five years ago. “I knew I wanted to end up starting a shop somewhere.”  She spotted a building on Main Street that used to be welding business.

“We kept coming out and driving by, trying to get a feel for it.” She noticed tools in the window. After a few months, she realized those tools never moved. It was a challenge for her to find out who owned the building, because it still had the old Elkhorn number system on the window. “Before that, there was never a reason for me to come to Elkhorn, and I’m glad I did.”

Shelley Van Hoozer, a nurse and mother of three, has lived in Elkhorn since the early ’90s. “When we moved here,” she says, “it still had that country, small-town feel and everybody was really friendly.” She and her husband, Ross, chose the small-town vibe of Elkhorn after first checking out Gretna and then Millard.

Her favorite thing about living in Elkhorn is the schools, Elkhorn High School and Westridge Elementary School where her children attend. “The kids are getting a good education. The teachers are really good about staying in contact with the parents.”

Van Hoozer enjoys spending time with her family at Ta-Ha-Zouka Park (roughly translated as meaning an elk’s horn) along the river. “It’s pretty cool. There are soccer fields, baseball fields, and playground equipment.” She also frequents Common Ground Recreation Center for swimming and working out. She says that a visit to Elkhorn would not be complete with a trip to the Dairy Chef. “Everybody goes there. It’s a landmark, I guess you’d say. The Dairy Chef is a big deal.”

She says that Elkhorn feels safe and is a good area to raise her kids. “I think any of our neighbors would agree.”

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The Olde Towne Elkhorn Girls

August 27, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

To some, “small town” can imply limits, not too much to offer, even boring. But to others who know better, the term small town suggests friendly people, strong values, and off-the-beaten-path variety. The merchants of Olde Towne Elkhorn are working together to promote the latter identity and are slowly but surely being discovered.

Just a few blocks west of the busy highway that is 204th Street, you’ll find a quiet street lined with plenty of unique spots that bring about a shopping experience that will satisfy and surprise those not already familiar with Olde Towne.

“We’re still kind of a secret, but I think it’s growing more and more,” says Andrea Ramsey, owner of Andrea’s Designs. It’s a unique combination of women-owned businesses, as well as the camaraderie that these women share, that has helped this small business district become a welcoming and fun place to spend an afternoon.

The shops range from home furnishings and décor, to clothing and jewelry, to a haven for local artists and those with a green thumb. And while the shopping will satisfy a variety of styles and tastes, the owners of these businesses have one goal in mind…to support one another.

“We’re still kind of a secret, but I think it’s growing more and more.” – Andrea Ramsey, owner of Andrea’s Designs

Andrea’s Designs specializes in traditional home décor and furniture. Ramsey is an interior decorator and works with fresh flowers as well.

Leona Anderson, owner of Little Scandinavia, has had her shop for seven years. This little haven of all things Scandinavian has more than the customary moose and Viking-related items. It also offers sweaters made of Norwegian wool, Danish jewelry, and a small section devoted to food and drink favorites from the region. The store is welcoming and cozy, especially when Anderson greets you with a cup of coffee and home-baked goodies.

Anderson has seen the community grow in recent years. “Each one of these women brings something unique and fun to our downtown,” she says. “We have a good time when we get together.”

Studioviews, owned by Deb Trowbridge, had its grand opening last April. The studio offers lessons in working with clay and slab pottery, as well as original works. Trowbridge and her partner, Colleen Riordan, also do commission work such as custom mosaic countertops and backsplashes.

“It’s really charming and has a lot of character. I think people miss that.” – Karly Van Wie-Olson, owner of Karly & Company

Across the street, Karly Van Wie-Olson opened Karly & Company last November. While she specializes in home décor and gifts, Van Wie-Olson describes her style as more rustic with a mix of contemporary. She is also an interior designer for both residential and commercial spaces. She says that her experience with Olde Towne has been wonderful. “It’s really charming and has a lot of character. I think people miss that.”

She also appreciates the way the women all support one another and work so well together. “I love the people here.”

One way the Olde Towne group has found success in promoting each other’s businesses is in starting “Second Saturdays.” The promotion, which includes several but not all of the 21 downtown shops and eateries, allows customers to earn one “Olde Towne Buck” for every $20 they spend at participating shops on the second Saturday of every month. The shopkeepers will hold an annual auction in which customers can bid on items donated by participating stores. This free event includes complimentary hors d’oeuvres and beverages.

An old church houses Kelli Fuglsang’s shop, This & That & Other Stuff. Since moving in last October, Fuglsang has enjoyed working with the other ladies along Main Street. “I didn’t know what to expect being down here…we’re kind of off the beaten path.” She adds that they all look out for each other. “It’s phenomenal. I’m so happy to tell anybody that comes in about any of the shops…how to get to them, what they have…”

“If somebody’s running late, we’ll go stick a note up on the door or we’ll go in and help them out in their shop. It’s just really supportive.” – Michele Minnick, owner of The Garden Gallery

Using the shortcut that Fuglsang tells her customers about, you can find The Garden Gallery. At first glance, it appears to be the yard of a busy gardener; you soon discover that this is not the run-of-the-mill flower garden. “I specialize in really unusual annuals, perennials, and tropicals,” says owner Michele Minnick. Open year round, she also works with mums, poinsettias, and bulbs. Visitors will also find fun potting containers and garden art and accessories to help create your own “Fairy Garden.”

“They’re one of the biggest trends,” says Minnick. Legend says that these miniature gardens and their fairies will watch over your own garden and can include anything from tiny bridges, trees, ponds, pathways, and birds and nests.

Inside the Garden Gallery house, shoppers will find more unique pieces for, well…inside the house. The rooms of the old home have been converted to showrooms filled with fun clothing, jewelry, home décor, and art, much of which is supplied by as many as 25 to 30 local artists, including Minnick herself. “I do more whimsical paintings,” she says as she points to the brightly colored canvases.

Minnick’s been in Olde Towne for several years and says that she loves the community of which she has become a part. “It’s neat, because all of us are different.”

The neighborly atmosphere cannot be missed. “If somebody’s running late, we’ll go stick a note up on the door or we’ll go in and help them out in their shop,” she says. “It’s just really supportive…It’s good.”

If you’re looking for a fun, friendly, and unique shopping excursion, Olde Towne Elkhorn will not disappoint. Bring your friends—and make new ones—in Olde Towne.

Be sure to check out Olde Towne Elkhorn’s blog at oldetowneelkhorn.blogspot.com and stop out for the next Ladies Day Out, Sept. 21 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.